martes, 28 de mayo de 2013


The intolerance of one caused the death, and the suffering, of millions.
The compassion of one freed the surviving oppressed.
And the ambition of one could have changed history forever:


The story of some brave people who dared to question the authorities in times of persecution, when death penalty was applied to those considered heretics by the powers that be.
And of how those powers finally learned to accept the discoveries of revolutionary researchers:


In this post, I'll explore a passage from Mrs. Gatty's parable "The Voices of the Earth", in which a surly wind complains to the element Earth about all the fuss that we humans make:
"Not the breath of the dying only overwhelms me with this wild desire to be at rest. The breath of the living who suffer on is even worse. The sigh of natural grief, which none can blame; the moanings of the afflicted in mind, body, or estate; the outcries of the oppressed and desperate; the shrieks of madness and of pain, the groanings of despair; all, all are outpoured on me! Those dreadful voices haunt me from all sides. This mass of human woe corrodes my soul. I meet it in the cottage, and pass through to find it in the palace; I rush from the battlefield to the cloister, but in vain! for no seclusion can shut out man (or woman, for that matter, not to sound as "sexist" as the female author!) from sorrow."
Grief. Disease. Oppression. Pain. Despair. Things that we humans can not accept at all.
The Earth replies: "What, if amidst the mortal agony of the righteous, the triumph-songs of faith grow loud, wouldst thou not fear to take away the one, lest the other perchance should fail from off the earth?"
 Then, she proposes optimism as an antidote to the problem of pain: "The peaceful respirations of health, unnoticed and, alas! how often unthankfully enjoyed through years, count them if thou canst! Count them as they float to thee, while the night hours pass over the sleeper's head: count them when he wakes with the young daylight to a fresh existence. Count the laughs of frolic childhood. Count the murmurs of happy love. Count the stars if thou wilt (this immediately calls to mind the star-counting capitalist in Saint-Exupery's famous novel!), but thou canst never count the daily outpourings of common earthly joys. Alas for those who judge of life only by startling periods, and are deaf to the still small voices, which tell of hourly mercies, hour by hour!" 
Pollyanna, as she appeared in the anime series of my childhood.
In astrology, the element Air symbolizes thought and reason, while Earth stands for realism and sensory perception. I am an Aquarius with ascendant Virgo: an Air person within, an Earth person without. So the problem of pain alternates in my mindset with the  age-old motto "carpe diem" (or "hakuna matata"), and I display a sanguine temperament and optimistic outlook, like Pollyanna's, most of the time, but I still wonder if there is a dark side to reality. 
Gottfried von Leibniz: orphan of war, child prodigy, courtier, mathematician, computer science pioneer, and Enlightened philosopher. 

Gottfried von Leibniz, a Baroque-era courtier, mathematician, and philosopher, clearly told physical evil (pain, death, grief, the blues, violent deaths caused by accidents and natural disaster), founded on the laws of nature; from moral evil (oppression, warfare, persecution, murders...), caused by humans' wrong use of their free will.  Leibniz, born in Leipzig in 1646, lost both his parents to the Thirty Years' War, and he had to study pretty hard for getting the Law degree he wanted. Yet he entered the local university (had I ever told you that Leipzig has been "the Oxford of the Continent" for decades?) in his early teens, and then served at several electoral courts, before appearing in the entourage of Kaiser Charles VI himself.  He is also considered "the father of calculus", id est, he discovered the derivatives and functions that made me pass Maths. To crown the list of his achievements, Leibniz created the binary system: the zeroes and ones that make up every single word or picture in this blog (or any other site in the Net), and the cornerstone of our modern Information Age (whether social networks or space explorations)!
 Perchance his justified success story is the reason why he said that "we live in the best of all possible worlds".


Forgotten Victorian author Margaret Gatty wrote a series of "Parables from Nature", that is, moral and religious stories based upon natural phenomena.
One of them, "The Deliverer", set before the birth of Christ, tells of humankind's hope for a messianic redeemer. While most people expect a royal palace to be his birthplace and courtiers or royals for parents, "the lovers of pleasure hoped for a Deliverer in scenes of earthly enjoyment":
The conquering spoken of is but the overcoming of all wish for strife; the rule in store, the sovereignty of love, suppressing all desires but that for universal joy.
Ah! surely, when the Deliverer came it would be to make all people happy alike, and pour a healing balsam into every wound! Then would all the old griefs be buried and forgotten, and the soothed minds of the contented trouble themselves no more with struggle.
Oh for the dawning of that morn when the world should resound once more to the songs of rejoicing which gladdened the golden age! Had not the Sybils so spoken, and had not the Poet so sung? Then should everyone sit under his own vine and his fig-tree, and poor and rich alike cease from the land, for all should be equal and all happy.
"But whence should such a Deliverer be looked for—where be expected to arise?—Ah! surely only in some happy spot of Nature, some valley peaceful and beautiful as that of Cashmere, among a race of pastoral simplicity; in some perfect household, where disturbance was never known, and one mind prevailed. Thence alone could come He who would cause the cruel swords of war to be turned into ploughshares, and spears into reapinghooks, and animate and inanimate Nature to join in one general song of joy.
So these looked to the lovely valleys and the quiet nooks of Nature for the magic spot where discord had never entered. But they, too, looked and waited in vain—yet looked and waited on as before, and called upon Nature herself to confirm their hopes."
They looked and waited in vain because the Lord "had chosen base things of the world, and things which are despised, that no flesh should glory in His presence." And the Earth remained in suffering and oppression because "not many wise men after the flesh" are called by the Lord. That's why, according to Mrs. Gatty, Jesus was born in midwinter:
"Thus, thus, thus—while Nature lay torpid and hopeless, and half the world was winter-wrapt in snow. Thus, thus, thus—with healing on His wings, but not the healing they sought for: not a deliverance from death or sorrow, not a freedom from toil or pain, not even a ransom from temptation and sin." And, to add more fuel to the fire, the village inn where he was born and near which his carpenter father came from was located in a warzone (something Gatty never came to mention!).
Mrs. Gatty was a devout Christian, while I am a pacifist, an epicurean (i.e., a "lover of pleasure"), and a freethinker. The idea of "the magic spot where discord had never entered", so dismissed by the author's realism and spirituality simultaneously, is tantalizing to people like me in spite of its lacking foundation; for the problem of pain was and is a riddle without an answer. I have later explored the ideas of "the magic spot where discord had never entered", "the golden age", and free will as both a blessing and a curse, in this post:

jueves, 23 de mayo de 2013


Empirical evidence suggests that the average life span of a military lieutenant during wartime in the olden days (1618-1918) oscillated between the ages of 18 and 28.
So that Thundercats quote is right, because the same average lifespan applies in fantasy worlds with professional armies.
What measure was a lieutenant? Just a subaltern officer, a chess piece of middling value (neither so high nor so low). They nearly never wrote history, they just served under colonels who, in turn, served high-ranking and famous military leaders like Gustavus Adolphus, Frederick the Great, or Arthur Wellesley.




In the Thundercats cartoon, Episode Three, a ruthless mercenary general delivers the Quote of the Year 2012 (IMHO):

"They are expendable... as are you, Lieutenant!"


He certainly isn't.
Could anyone on Earth realize that the Bunny is a space alien, aside from a seasoned warrior and master chocolatier?
The last fact is probably the hitherto only known one.
William Joyce's Guardians books, currently on my shelves, delve into the untold backstories of beloved Anglo-Saxon folkloric characters like the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and the Tooth Fairy.
If you intend to read them: beware!
Your view of fantasy worlds will never be the same...


Still, I manage to write original poetry, aside from translating poems from certain languages into others.
The eulogy for that heartless veteran, Jean de Tilly, proves a perfect example. IMHO, he deserved an obituary less than Wallenstein... but there is the fact that Wallenstein was assassinated by the Kaiser's hired guns in his own bedchamber.
Though the former was monstrously sacred, while the latter was a sacred monster.
In Swedish, I have written a Lützen poem (the usual things: mist, November, gunshots, lots of casualties) of which different variations exist, aside from a lot of present wrapper poetry (praising the recipient and giving a clue on what the parcel contains).
In Spanish, I have mostly written prose, and I dislike my attempts at Spanish-language verse.

miércoles, 22 de mayo de 2013


This nursery rhyme sounds like something either Seuss or Carroll could have written:

Pease porridge hot,
Pease porridge cold,
Pease porridge in the pot,
9 days old.
Some like it hot,
Some like it cold,
Some like it new,
Some like it old...

Compare Seuss's infamous catalogue of fish:
One fish,
two fish,
red fish, 
blue fish.
Black fish,
blue fish,
old fish,
new fish...
In short, fish, or porridge, ad nauseam (pun intended: the Latin expression means literally "to make the reader/listener feel nauseous")!

martes, 21 de mayo de 2013


This post makes 100.
I can't believe there are 100 posts already!
But so it is.
This post is merely here to commemorate such a milestone.


This summer, Les Misérables will hit Europe on DVD!
Guess who's gonna buy the film?
To celebrate such an event, I will give my review of The Film of Last Winter (this review contains SPOILERS, so read at your own risk if you're not familiar with the plot!):

Jean Valjean with little Cosette in his arms.
A reformed convict, hunted down by national authorities in spite of his change of heart, takes an abused orphaned child under his wing, then turns the waif into a "beautiful person". A decade later, the adopted child falls in love with a young person on a higher rung of the social ladder. The lovers, after the violent death of a potential rival, marry and live happily ever after, while the "fairy-godsire-convict" dies a painful death.
While Hugo was writing the national epic of modern France, Dickens published Great Expectations, a story remarkably similar to Les Misérables (the only difference is the gender of the adopted child: unlike Cosette, Pip is male).
Valjean, the convict, is played by Hugh Jackman: Wolverine in the X-Men trilogy (and the Easter Bunny in Rise of the Guardians). The part of Valjean has attained, on the French stage and screen, a reputation like that of Hamlet or Romeo: actors such as Gérard Depardieu (AKA Obelix!) have given life to such a vibrant and complex character. Like Cassio's story in Othello, Jean Valjean's is one of redress, but darker and more mature than the young lieutenant's (it stretches across decades, rather than lasting a week). The most interesting thing about Valjean, IMHO, is how a good deed (he could have been betrayed by Monsignor, who gave him the silverware plus the candlesticks!) erased all the hatred and spite that he harboured after twenty years of imprisonment. This good deed was the turning point: there could be no plot without it.
Jackman could have won the Oscar for Best Male Lead, but, malheureusement, it went to Abe Lincoln. Plain Abe Lincoln, not the Vampire Hunter.
Russell Crowe as Javert.
Russell Crowe in a blue coat with epaulets? Remember Aubrey from Master and Commander? (He is certainly dashing, with that blond ponytail of his, plus such a uniform!)
Anyway, no matter if as a French or British officer, Crowe looks good in uniform, he looks good in blue, and his baritone singing voice is beyond comparison (actually, he wanted the part of Javert so much that he trained his vocal cords on purpose). Listen!

To clear a common misconception, Javert is not evil. He is as evil as Lafeu in All's Well, a Nazi officer (let's say Lieutenant Kotler), or the good cops in slasher films. He's just a slave to the system. And a devout Catholic, taught by his guardian that good people are good, bad people are bad, and neither can change at all. No surprise that he snaps upon discovering that Valjean really has reformed (when the "criminal" sets him free and saves his life from the revolutionaries)!
So, why has he spent decades rising through the ranks of the National Guard in tireless pursuit of Valjean (like Ahab after Moby Dick, Iago after Cassio, or the coyote after the roadrunner)?
A memorable scene or two: when he tries to infiltrate the barricade in civilian garb. Enjolras lets him in (so naive!), but a certain illiterate streetrat reveals his true identity. Then, when Gavroche is killed, Javert tries to hold back his tears and places a medal on his wounded chest.
To sum up: An interesting character, played by an interesting actor. The only con: that blue coat betrays Crowe's slightly increasing waistline.

Madame Thénardier and her soused spouse.
The real bad guys: Helena Bonham-Carter (the Queen of Hearts in 2010 Alice, Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter films) and Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat, Pirelli in Sweeney Todd) team up as the devious Thénardiers, owners of the "Sergeant at Waterloo" inn and Cosette's abusive foster parents. Their rather catchy leitmotif hovers between ominousness and playfulness.
They're established as both chaotic villains and comic relief, much like Iago, right from the start. And even though the Cohen-Carter tandem trades the sergeant's uniform for a satin waistcoat and the holly hair dec for an elegant parure, they fail in their attempt to crash Cosette's and Marius's wedding, and they are whisked away by servants while singing their song with different lyrics. 
In short: wicked, but funny. Their antics (especially, during the wedding crash attempt) made me laugh.
Éponine Thénardier, yet another star-crossed lover.
The Thénardier children: are they illegitimate, actually? 'Cause Gavroche, the "littlest revolutionary", is willing to risk his life to help those on his side. But it's big sis Éponine who takes the cake: upon coming of age, she completely changes from wicked stepsister to tragic heroine: she takes a bullet meant for the heart of the one she loves, in spite of the fact that Marius sees her as a friend and prefers Cosette. The first martyr of the revolution is played by a young and promising Samantha Barks, who really gets inside her character.

Enjolras: a true leader, and the one I loved.
Enjolras: leader of a rag-tag team of university students, craftspeople and streetrats against the Royal Army and the National Guard. He's cool. He's charming. Though he's somewhat naive (letting a disguised Javert in), but aren't all great leaders so?
When they shot him dead in the heat of the final battle, I couldn't even speak!
Played by another young talent, Aaron Kyle Tveit, Enjolras was the main reason why I left the cinema singing "Red and Black" while daydreaming.

viernes, 17 de mayo de 2013


Do you think guinea pigs are cute? (I do!)
Imagine a guinea pig the size of an adult domestic pig:

These aren't transgenic guinea pigs. These are capybaras. Though those featured in this film live in Ueno Zoo (Japan), their natural habitat is the swampland of the Amazon rainforest.

miércoles, 15 de mayo de 2013


...Or a monster and a maelstrom.
The French refer to Scylla and Charybdis while speaking of such circumstances.
Well, I tend to get into such situations.
In Joyce's Ulysses, Episode Nine discusses Anne Shakespeare's alleged affair (supporters of this theory claim that it may have inspired her spouse to write about the concept of adultery, whether in comedies like Much Ado or tragedies like Hamlet and Othello), literature, Plato vs. Aristotle... against the backdrop of the Irish National Library!
In Joyce, "Scylla" refers to a down-to-earth, materialistic worldview (Aristotle, Locke+Berkeley+Hume); and "Charybdis", to a more idealistic, spiritual one (Plato, Hegel)... Id est, a rock and a watery place.
I go for the rock.


Mabot Street, Dublin, Eire.
Two men and a family of prostitutes (shall we say femmes fatales?).
Written as a play script, this is James Joyce's "Circe".
It can be staged or read aloud like a play!

viernes, 10 de mayo de 2013


So I am making up this historical fic without a title (so far).
It takes place throughout Northern Europe in the 17th century and features themes such as love, war, power, freedom, neoteny, vampirism (I AM NOT KIDDING. There is a neotenic female character and a bunch of real vampires!!)...
The plot is the following: it is the life of Elfrieda, born a child of performers but adopted and raised (a foundling) by aristocrats. She is purple-haired and odd-eyed, with long, pointy ears. And neotenic, meaning she stays a teenager in appearance and health throughout her life. So, she finds a place as a court entertainer, then accompanies the electoress's daughter to Sweden upon her marriage to Gustavus Adolphus. Aside from Elfrieda, there is Karlis, one of her nephews, a university student turned lieutenant. He is obviously described as the epitome of male Nordic cuteness. And the backdrop is the war front... there is a huge cast, magical events, etcetera...
It is my tribute to (and also my slight parody of) Victorian door-stoppers like Les Miserables, Moby Dick, and War and Peace.

Here are a few of the best chapter titles:

  • Entertainers in Early Modern Times
  • Kaiser Ferdinand at his Court in the Viennese Hofburg, and Lord Wallenstein at his Court in Schloss Friedland
  • One Eye of a Different Colour
  • The Difference between Beauty and Cuteness
  • An Old Walloon and a Young Friedlander
  • An Ascetic and an Aesthete
  • A Redoubtable Alliance, Dissolved due to Irreconcilable Differences
  • The Breitenfeld Debacle: the Catholic View
  • The Breitenfeld Landslide: the Protestant View
  • Elfrieda's First Confession to Karlis
  • Wallenstein in his Tower in Schloss Friedland, by Midnight
  • A Thorough Description of the Lech-Danube Confluence
  • Crossing the Lech Proves Crossing the Rubicon
  • The Kaiser's Left-Hand Man Rises Beyond his Expectations
  • A Thorough Description of the Plains of Lützen
  • The Fatal Sixth of November
  • Mary Eleanor of Hohenzollern Vs. the Council of Regents
  • The Flight from Gripsholm
  • A Digression on the Viability of Resurrection
  • Karlis Makes a Difficult Decision
  • Fräulein von W*********n becomes Frau Schulze, therefore Losing her Disgraceful Surname
  • A Young Clergywoman, with the Mind of a Philosopher, visits Versailles


Followers of this blog may recall my tribute to the messenger in Chaucer's Man of Law's Tale.
For those who do not remember or have not read those posts, here is the excerpt that I want to discuss:
 "Chaucer says that he "underpinned his girdle". Now, quite obviously, lager makes you fat. But here, the reference to a "girdle" (that's a belt) refers to ingestion as much as to waist enlargement.
 To say it in modern English, he has this quantity of ale/lager under his belt. There are similar idioms in languages other than English: consumed ethylic fluids go into one's buff doublet (a leather jacket worn in the seventeenth century) in Spanish, into one's waistcoat in Swedish, and behind one's cravat (necktie) in French and German."
And behind one's heart in Flemish (a Germanic language spoken in Belgium). Though Jean t'Serclaes, otherwise known as Tilly, was both sworn to temperance and too posh to speak Flemish. Surely, it applies to present-day ligne claire comic artists... 


Les Miserables in a South Korean airbase?
It may sound surreal, but the ROSKAF shot, last winter, a parody of the musical epic of the year.
Jean Valjean is now a private torn between his duty to the chain of command, represented by one Lieutenant Javert, and his love for the beautiful Cosette (not his ward, his fiancée!)
Made by South Korean airmen about South Korean airmen to satirize their conditions of life, here is (ladies and gents...) Les Militaribles!


From 1992, the year I was born.

Made in the Russian Federation with love for literature.


A couple of siblings find a rather unusual bike in this Gorey story:

miércoles, 1 de mayo de 2013


More Gor(e)y poetry!

A beastly baby meets his Waterloo:

On a cold winter night, a mysterious penguin-like monster is adopted by the masters of a chateau:

Beachcombers Rose and Mary quarrel. Tragedy ensues. Another black joke:

Poor Charlotte! Her father is killed in action, her mother dies of consumption, her guardian sends her to boarding school, her classmates bully her... Could it get any worse?

Another nonsensical alphabet:

Millicent is abducted by aristocrats with a dark secret:

"It was already Thursday, but His Lordship's artificial limb could not be found":


This Carrollian title belongs to a poem by Edward Gorey, best known for "The Gashlycrumb Tinies".
Another macabre verse alphabet, like "The Tinies", but told in quatrains, and covering more adult themes:


This well-known poem by Edward Gorey lists a Victorian alphabet of assorted children's deaths:

Live action version: